We’re living in a world that is both overwhelming and distracting. Think about your average day — from morning until night, we’re bombarded with information and stimuli. In turn, each decision you make and every distraction you’re exposed to takes its toll on your ability to focus.
We need to learn how to tune out irrelevant information so that we can maintain greater attention, helping us achieve more as we live a more fulfilling life. Easier said than done, right? If you struggle to focus, you will most certainly benefit from the following list of suggestions.
Your ability to refocus at home and work can make a significant difference in terms of your overall quality of life and ability to succeed. It can help you turn down the “noise” as you focus on what truly matters. There have been plenty of studies which showcase just how damaging distractions can be.
Within one 2005 study, it was found that employees spent an average of 11 minutes on a task before they were distracted, taking an additional 25 minutes to return to the original task. Similarly, another study found that workplace distractions chew up an average of 2.1 hours per day — talk about lost productivity.
1. Head to nature
Nature has always been my medicine; it has the ability to instantly reduce stress levels, encouraging a more positive sense of wellbeing. When you’re stressed, it’s hard to concentrate because you’re distracted by work deadlines, the fight you had with your partner, mortgage payments or whatever else is playing on your mind.
Article: 4 Benefits Of Getting Back To Nature
Research has shown that when you take a walk through nature, you’re able to perform better on tasks that require sustained focus. Within one study, it was found that when subjects walked through an arboretum, their memory and attention improved by 20 percent — impressive, right?
2. Set goals and prioritize
Goal setting is a great way to develop long-term focus, helping you stay motivated. Once you’ve decided on your goals — whether they’re related to your career, family or health — write them down. You want to be reminded of them, so place them in a location where they’ll be viewed regularly.
As you work towards your goals, you will build key skills — self-discipline, self-efficacy and self-confidence. As you prioritize, you’ll need to change your habits. Whether that means waking up earlier, reading more or changing the way you eat, it’s important to have goals, as they will push you in the right direction.
3. Eliminate distractions
Being a writer, I need to stay focused throughout the day, avoiding as many distractions as possible. When I first began my writing career, I found that I was wasting far too much time in the day. I would be writing about gardening, which led me to go water my tomatoes, weed, and before I knew it, 40 minutes were gone.
For me, I need to work in a clutter-free environment and set my schedule each morning. I will dedicate “X” amount of time to reading/answering emails, then set appropriate timelines for each assignment. It helps me stay focused and on-track, knowing that certain time slots are dedicated to certain tasks.
You need to think what your biggest distractions are and how you can avoid them. For many, it’s their cell phone — so turn it off. When you have something you need to get done, physically eliminate the distraction. Also, see your task through — finish what you started, then take a small break.
4. Allow yourself to relax
A relaxed mind is a productive mind. When you’re stressed, hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol significantly reduce mental performance. Your attention will be on the stressor — not the task at hand. Emotional intelligence plays a key role here, and if you struggle to maintain a positive mind frame, no need to panic.
You can practice self-regulation, helping you better manage your emotions. In turn, you will recover much more easily from a stressor. As you do, you will enhance the capabilities of other key neural executive centers. When you allow your mind to be flexible and relaxed, you can refocus much more easily.
5. Nourish your brain
I’m a firm believer in nutrition and its effect on positive cognitive and overall mental health. When you consume foods that support brain health, you can also reduce your risk of future complications. No surprise here — coffee can make you feel more alert, all while reducing your risk of various health complications.
A whole food diet is essential, rich in whole grains, fruit, vegetables, fish, nuts, seeds and plenty of water. Within one study, published in Neurology, it was found that individuals who ate 2.8+ servings of vegetables (mainly leafy greens) per day achieved greater mental focus and a reduction in cognitive decline.
6. Get enough sleep
Sleep deprivation impacts far too many Americans, affecting both their mental and physical health. If you don’t get enough sleep, you will first notice a lack of concentration, followed by a reduced ability to learn. Lack of sleep leads to overworked neurons, which struggle to function and retain new information.
7. Say no to multitasking
It’s been scientifically shown that multitasking actually hurts productivity because the brain cannot switch between tasks. Meaning, as you switch from one task to the next, you’re losing time. In terms of your ability to focus on something new, it takes four times longer to recognize and process a different task.
Not only will you reduce performance levels and waste time, but you can actually increase stress levels. Constant interruption — which is essentially what multitasking is — causes cognitive overload and, in turn, reaction times and brain function are dulled. So remember, work on one thing at a time, completing that task before moving onto the next.
8. Start with creative work
How often do you start the day focusing on mindless work as you build up to more important tasks? When you do this, you’re essentially draining your mental energy, reducing your ability to focus. Always keep this in the back of your mind — each decision you make tires the brain.
Instead, switch up the order. Focus on tasks that require creative thinking or high levels of concentration, getting them out of the way before taking a short mental break. Then, you can move into more mindless tasks, such as deleting emails, scheduling appointments, etc.
9. Train your brain
If you go to the gym, you’re training your body to be more physically fit — the same applies to your brain. You need to actively practice and commit yourself to a less distracting environment. Each day, devote “X” amount of time to a set task. Start with 10 minutes, focusing on nothing but your immediate goal.
As you progress, you’ll develop new routines and habits, helping you to break old, less productive ones. As you train your brain to focus and silence all that extra noise, you will achieve higher levels of clarity and attention. As this ability is strengthened, you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve in a single day.
— Krista Hillis